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News >  Spokane

School officials air proposal for outdoor graduation ceremonies for Class of 2020

UPDATED: Thu., April 30, 2020

The office of Gov. Jay Inslee rejected a proposal for Spokane high schools to hold graduation ceremonies at the venerable Joe Albi Stadium amid efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The office of Gov. Jay Inslee rejected a proposal for Spokane high schools to hold graduation ceremonies at the venerable Joe Albi Stadium amid efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

School officials are proposing special outdoor graduation ceremonies at Joe Albi Stadium to recognize the class of 2020.

District administrators have drafted a proposal for holding the open-air events in the 28,000-seat stadium that would allow two guests per graduate and be in accordance with social distancing guidelines that would require students be seated in chairs placed at least 6 feet apart.

The idea was first discussed Tuesday in a video-conference meeting that included high school principals, district administrators and Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz.

The proposal also got a favorable response from state schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal, after Spokane superintendent Shelley Redinger shared the idea with him.

Shawn Jordan, director of secondary education for Spokane schools, said Thursday that Lutz also was supportive of the proposal as long as all attendees wear masks.

Redinger has scheduled a meeting with Gov. Jay Inslee’s office to receive feedback on the proposal, Jordan said.

In order to maintain social distancing standards, attendance would be limited.

“Our proposal requested that each graduate would have two (guests),” Jordan said.

All ceremonies would be broadcast live by KSPS, which also recently began televising lessons during the school closures forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet another unknown is the timing of a live ceremony.

“We are also unsure whether we would be able to hold the ceremonies on the scheduled June dates or need to be delayed to a later date in the summer or fall,” Jordan said. “We continue to brainstorm ideas for a ceremony that celebrates and honors our seniors within the requirements of the governor’s order and the social distancing guidelines to keep all safe.”

The uncertainty as to when the state will move toward opening creates a planning challenge, Jordan said.

With school scheduled to end June 19, time is running out.

Earlier on Thursday, superintendents from Central Valley, East Valley, West Valley and Freeman said they were still discussing options to honor seniors.

CV schools chief Ben Small said his district will “line out our preferences” on Monday.

Freeman Superintendent Randy Russell said his district has already “talked about managing some realistic expectations” for commencement.

Meanwhile, students at Shadle Park High School needed only 24 hours to get more than 1,000 signatures on a petition calling for a live ceremony.

“Seniors earned the right to cross the stage to get their diploma, not to get it online,” student Zachary Probst wrote on the petition. “It’s not right to force them to do something like that.”

Another student, Kyra Fromm, commented, “Graduation is something that entire families look forward to. This is devastating especially to the students whose sole goal was to graduate high school, and even the teachers who spent a little extra time to make sure that some students had the opportunity to know what walking across that stage felt like.”

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